Anti-choice…because of compassion?

Here’s a terrible story that shows just how fucked up a person’s idea of compassion can be.  A woman named Crystal Kelley agreed to be a surrogate mother for a couple.  The couple would get a healthy child, and Kelley would get a $22,000 fee for carrying the baby and the joy that comes with knowing she’d help others.

Then, a tragedy.

With the parents standing behind her, the ultrasound technician at the hospital put the wand on Kelley’s stomach. The test confirmed her worst fears: It showed the baby did have a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in the brain, and a complex heart abnormality.

The doctors explained the baby would need several heart surgeries after she was born. She would likely survive the pregnancy, but had only about a 25% chance of having a “normal life,” Kelley remembers the doctors saying.

In a letter to Kelley’s midwife, Dr. Elisa Gianferrari, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Hartford Hospital, and Leslie Ciarleglio, a genetic counselor, described what happened next.

“Given the ultrasound findings, (the parents) feel that the interventions required to manage (the baby’s medical problems) are overwhelming for an infant, and that it is a more humane option to consider pregnancy termination,” they wrote.

Kelley disagreed.

The parents offered Kelley $10,000 to abort the child to spare it a life of suffering.  Kelley refused, telling the parents it was not their place to play god.  Despite her principles, she made a counter offer at one point.

Kelley had a counter offer. “In a weak moment I asked her to tell them that for $15,000 I would consider going forward with the termination,” she said.

What I heard here was “It’s not your place to play god!  …but I’ll do it for $15,000.”  It’s an odd corruption of one’s moral senses to take a stand on forcing a child into the world what will most likely suffer for a while and then die, as if that were a testament to Kelley’s incorruptible morality, right before engaging in extortion that depends on the compassion of the supposedly immoral ones.

The parents hired a lawyer who accused Kelley of attempted extortion (I wonder why).  Then Kelley got the news that in the state of Connecticut, the couple who hired her were the fetus’ legal guardians.

In an affidavit filed in Connecticut Superior Court, DePrimo described what happened next.

DePrimo received a phone call from Fishman telling him the parents had changed their minds. They now planned to exercise their legal right to take custody of their child — and then immediately after birth surrender her to the state of Connecticut. She would become a ward of the state.

DePrimo explained to Kelley that this was no empty threat. Under state law, they were the parents, not her, and under Connecticut’s Safe Haven Act for Newborns, parents can voluntarily give up custody of a baby less than a month old without being arrested for child abandonment.

Kelley couldn’t stand the thought of the baby in foster care. She’d heard the nightmare stories.

She felt like her back was up against the wall.

So Kelley moved to Michigan where the carrier is the legal guardian to deliver the baby.  She said of her decision…

“Once I realized that I was going to be the only person really fighting for her, that Mama bear instinct kicked in, and there was no way I was giving up without a fight,” Kelley said.

Kelley then put the child up for adoption.  While she wanted to protect the child in the womb, that apparently didn’t extend into the child’s life beyond the womb.

When the baby was delivered, just like the doctors had said, there was a lot wrong.

The baby’s medical problems turned out to be much more extensive than the ultrasound at Hartford Hospital had revealed.

She has a birth defect called holoprosencephaly, where the brain fails to completely divide into distinct hemispheres. She has heterotaxy, which means many of her internal organs, such as her liver and stomach, are in the wrong places. She has at least two spleens, neither of which works properly. Her head is very small, her right ear is misshapen, she has a cleft lip and a cleft palate, and a long list of complex heart defects, among other problems.

Baby S. — her adoptive parents are comfortable using her first initial — has a long road in front of her. She’s already had one open-heart surgery and surgery on her intestines, and in the next year she’ll need one or two more cardiac surgeries in addition to procedures to repair her cleft lip and palate. Later in childhood she’ll need surgeries on her jaw and ear and more heart surgeries.

Her adoptive parents, who asked to remain anonymous to protect their family’s privacy, know Baby S. might not be with them for long. The cardiac procedures she needs are risky, and her heterotaxy and holoprosencephaly, though mild, carry a risk of early death, according to doctors.

If Baby S. does survive, there’s a 50% chance she won’t be able to walk, talk or use her hands normally.

In what sense is it compassionate to allow that fetus to grow into a child to suffer and then, to likely die?  You can’t tell me it’s because the child will occasionally giggle, thanks to the painkillers allowing it to.  If creating children that will giggle is your focus, you’d be cranking out babies like crazy.  This just makes no sense to me.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.